U.S. President George Bush has signed legislation that provides roughly $1.2 billion for fencing and other enhanced security measures along the border with Mexico.
Illegal immigration is a highly emotional issue in Arizona. And so it came as no surprise the president signed the legislation there, surrounded by local officials.
"The bill I sign helps address one of the central issues facing all states, but particularly the state of Arizona, and that is illegal immigration," Mr. Bush said. "I understand full well that illegal immigration puts pressure on the public schools and hospitals. It strains state and local budgets. In some communities, it increases crime."
The White House had hoped for a wide-raging immigration reform bill. Instead, the U.S. Congress approved money to erect fencing in some of the most porous border areas and added it to legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security.
The measure also provides more money to hire extra border agents, develop technology, and build additional detention facilities for those caught entering the country illegally.
"It is what the people of this country want. They want to know that we are modernizing the border so we can secure the border," the president added.
But even as he signed the measure into law, the president made clear he wants Congress to revisit the matter. He said the nation needs comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes a temporary-guest worker program.
"The funds that Congress has appropriated are critical for our efforts to secure this border and enforce our laws," he said. "Yet we must also recognize that enforcement alone is not going to work."
But there are deep divides in Congress on just how to handle the immigration issue. Many members of the president's own party in the House of Representatives oppose a guest-worker program. In the Senate, there is more support for comprehensive reform. But in recent debate, Democrat Ted Kennedy said Republican lawmakers do not have the will to take on anti-immigrant forces.
"The fence bill is a clear indication of the abdication of the Congress of the United States to deal responsibly with the whole challenge of immigration," said Mr. Kennedy.
Senator Kennedy said pushing money for the fence is only a campaign ploy and not a real solution to the problem.